Recently in 2. Project Description Category

Jackie Kellett
GWSS 4108W
February 3, 2010
Project Description

A Feminist Perspective on the Criminal Justice System (working on the title)

I plan to write a research paper. The main question I am interested in answering is why it is problematic that we, as a culture, often code and view African American men as criminal, the impact this has, how it fits into a historical narrative about African Americans, and why this is problematic.

My project is important because while there is a lot of information on the racial disparities of the criminal justice system relatively few incorporate a feminist perspective or analysis. While I haven't decided which aspect to focus on in the criminal justice system, I want to focus on African American men, gendered constructions regarding them, how that plays into people coding them as 'criminal,' the impact the criminal justice system has on African American men and their families/communities. I do have to focus my paper down - and I'm still figuring out what to focus on specifically and how to make it flow together well.

I will use information from the U.S. Department of Justice, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and the Sentencing Project for my current facts on the criminal justice system regarding racial disparities. I plan to draw on Alice Walker, Patricia Hill Collins, and other black feminist writers for the theoretical frameworks. The rest of my sources/theories will be determined when I come up with a more concrete outline.

For my project I am going to be investigating a topic that is very relevant to me and has been a question of mine since deciding to declare Women's Studies (here, adding the categories of Gender and Sexuality as well, since all seem to be intertwined) as my additional major. What place do men have in feminism/Feminism? Are men just "allies" to a movement or is the male feminist, the male activist feminist, and the Male Feminist equal players in their own right. How do these men, in particular white males of privilege, recognize their privilege power and do they attempt to rid themselves of this power, or "use it to an advantage" to try to "establish equality through the use of their privilege." If it is the latter, is such support even wanted?

Looking at the the history of male involvement in feminism in the early period (1920-1960s), then male involvement from the 1970s-1990s will be the start of my paper, trying to answer some of the questions outlined above. I'll then move into the male counter-feminism movements and also female feminists "against male involvement." I'd like to then conclude by looking at male feminist groups formed from 1990-2009, including campus groups, such as those formed by my friends in Duluth and end by tying everything together by "looking into the future" of the role of men in feminism, and determining in the future how gender roles will change. Somehow I'd like to tie the GLBTQ movement into this, but am unsure at this point how to go about doing so.

I intend to read about 5 books, by various female and male feminists who analyze quite thoroughly the roles men play in feminism overall. My goal is also to find early journals, diaries, or feminist publications and to search through them for references to men, and to power. I'm also going to reference active blogs and journals, interview two men in Duluth: one who formed a campus group and another who is the director of the Safe Haven Women's Shelter, and also try to interview Women's Studies and GWSS professors and ask about what role they think men have, and what they think of the field of "Men's Studies." The final product will be a 25-page research paper, but perhaps a 20 page paper with a 5-10 minute video.

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-This is adapted from a project description/proposal I wrote last semester as I began to work on this topic.-

Broadly, this paper seeks to understand post-colonial relationships as well as globalization in the context of Kenya. The case study or example to be used from Kenya is that of widow inheritance. In a previous paper, I discussed how the cultural practice of widow inheritance has significantly changed in recent years. In that paper, I identified the causes of changes to widow inheritance to be HIV/AIDS, Westernization, and economic issues. This paper then seeks to further examine the changes of widow inheritance and associated processes on a more critical level by investigating the following questions:

1. How can we debunk the myth that globalization is a top-down, outside-in process? What is a bottom-up view of globalization in Kenya's case?

2. How can we look deeper into the discourse surrounding widow inheritance - beyond the façade of HIV/AIDS to underlying discourses of neocolonialism and paternalism? What does this then tell us about how certain issues are considered important?

3. Lastly, what can this imply for us about a feminist code of ethics?

I plan to use a number of sources, including my own past research and writing on widow inheritance and transnational feminist ethics; theoretical feminist writings on globalization and post-colonial thought; and Kenyan newspaper articles discussing globalization and western influences.

For my project, I plan to explore discrimination as well as the interpersonal exchange that occurs in the restaurant business. I will look at how these operate in relation to one another. Although it is not limited to these factors, I will begin to explore this idea by closely examining sexism, ageism and racism in the hiring process. I am interested in this because I see these discriminations occurring and judgments being made with every applicant and new employee even after they are hired in my workplace. The lens I plan to look through is one the functions on the notion that beauty is marketable. My questions will contain: Who is included and who is excluded from hiring considerations? What are the implications in visual prerequisites for a job in the restaurant business? I would like to use personal experience to show how complicated and real the marketability of beauty is, how interpersonal exchanges between the server and the customer get manipulated and according to what factors. I will look at how these exchanges play into the marketability of beauty and how it may influence the hiring process according to, but not limited to, sex, age and race. I think this approach could intervene in a way that looks to feminist studies to examine the possibilities and implications of the marketability of beauty. A question to intervene with includes: Is it wrong to feel empowered if under the exclusionary, socially influenced, heteronormative definition of beauty?

In Audre Lorde's article, "Uses of the Erotic (1984) The Erotic as Power," she explains the erotic as something that is revolutionary for women in the workplace. I want to examine this notion because I have personally struggled with the feelings of empowerment I feel while "using my erotic" along with my questioning the implications that are involved with that feeling. In a deeper inspection, "women" as a universal term can be deconstructed and is exclusionary. Because of this, the erotic as described by Lorde applies to a certain realm of women and therefore relates to discrimination in the workplace. Some questions I plan to explore include: Can men be included in the uses and empowerments of their erotic? What kind of privilege occurs here involving sex, age and race? These two questions are among the many I plan to explore in order to contemplate my experiences in the workplace. I envision the final project as a research paper with different modes of research, but mainly literature. I am interested in exploring possible research strategies that I could conduct in my workplace. I am not sure how I would go about this, but I am interested! Any ideas?

Project Description: Sin.dicate

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I want to create a magazine or journal written by and for sex workers in Minneapolis. I see an opportunity to publish important narratives of female and queer people's lives as marginalized labor, as unique individuals, and as a community. I envision the magazine as a platform to strengthen and radicalize our community. The valuation and interpretation of our experiences can help us identify and address the needs, and desires of a population vulnerable to exploitation. I want to specifically address predatory practices in the dancing community, that would be eliminated by unionization. I'm really interested to find out what other contributors, and sex workers find significant, frustrating, and hopeful about sex work in Minneapolis. By doing a few workshops, and editing the magazine I want to cultivate a sex-positive, queer friendly tone as well as present an opportunity for self-promotion, self-preservation, and resistance for the community. I want to look at empowering narratives written by sex workers like Michelle Tea's Rent Girl and Portland's Black Book, and SFX magazines, and draw on the theoretical framework of feminist theorists like Susie Bright and Gayle Rubin.

Project Description

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Although both theoretically interrogate gender and sexuality, third wave feminist theory and queer theory are at odds. Queer theory works to question and dismantle many elements intrinsic to third wave feminist theory. Is it possible for either of these two disciplines to coexist without contradicting the other? If so, how would these inherent contradictory elements be dealt with? Also, on a more personal level, how can I as a feminist reconcile my feminist beliefs with the development of a passion for queer theory? The goal of my senior project will be to investigate and answer these questions in a research paper specifically engaging with theoretical feminist and queer texts.
It is very important for me to pursue an answer to this question. I am coming to the end of my undergraduate studies in gender studies; struggling with and hopefully resolving this question will help guide me in whichever direction I take after my studies here. Also, it is essential that feminist studies, as with any academic discipline, be constantly testing itself against new and conflicting theories, including queer theory.
To write my paper, I will research and choose canonical texts for both disciplines to delineate exactly what each theory incorporates. These will be in the form mostly of theoretical writings but also may extend to film or other artistic mediums.

For my project I am working to connect my research on embodied pedagogies and inter-ethnic education in Kenya with my current explorations of the politics of the University classroom. I will work with the ideas of Paulo Freire, bell hooks, Augusto Boal and many others to conceptualize a classroom space which does not maintain politics of domination but rather remains committed to engaged processes of learning. The focus here will be on critical, feminist, and embodied pedagogies and the ways they can (and already do) intersect with critical race theory. In order to accomplish this, I am centering my project on race relations in the classroom, specifically considering discussions of race as racialized bodies and the development of safe spaces for necessary and difficult dialogues. My approach will seek to manifest the idea of praxis through a theoretical consideration of these processes and the engagement of that theory in an applied component. In the applied portion I will develop multiple workshop models, ideally to be facilitated with groups of graduate students in the GWSS department and possibly graduate students in other departments. This portion of my work is by no means a final product, but is an articulation of the process of engaging praxis. I hope to develop a collection of my synthesis of these theoretical explorations, multiple workshop/lesson plans, and reflections on the actual workshops.

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For my final project I plan on writing a persuasive research paper about the need for prostitution to be decriminalized in the United States and that more. My paper will focus on my belief that women are not prostitutes, women are prostituted. In other words, women in the United States, for the overwhelming majority, do not enter into prostitution willingly. It will be the point of the paper that instead of sending prostituted women to jail for prostitution, more organizations should be created to help women get out of prostitution. To do so I will cite the research, facts, and statistics that have been done on the subject hat show that prostituted women are not willing participants, as well as the changes in laws surrounding this issue in other countries and how these changes affected the prostitution industry. More specifically, I will focus on how the vast majority of women do not enter into prostitution willingly and the sexism, racism, and classism that surrounds the topic, which affects how and why the current laws on prostitution do not help in ending this problem. In my paper I will also discuss the two other options on the subject (legalization and keeping it illegal) and why I believe them to both be inferior options to decriminalization. Finally, I will also look at current bills that are trying to be passed into legislation that deal with this topic.

This exercise requires you to think about the wonderful project you will be completing over the course of the semester. This is the first idea you will have of your project and I expect you to write a one-two paragraph (maximum one page double-spaced in word) description of what you are interested in exploring. Your project description is due by class time, February 3rd. Please be sure to label it under category "2. Project Description", tag it "project description" and any other tags you think are relevant to your posts.

Part I
Consider the following questions when crafting your initial ideas about your project:


  • What main question(s) are you interested in answering?

  • Why do you think your project is interesting and/or important? What kinds of interventions will your project make in the context of feminist studies?

  • How will you explore your project? What types of texts will you use to investigate your questions? What theoretical works are you thinking about incorporating? Will you be using literature, movies, music, print media or popular culture media to investigate your question/topic? What do you envision as your final product, will you be writing a research paper, making a film, writing a play or what do you imagine?

Part II
Before class meets on Friday February 5th, you have to make comments or raise questions on two of your classmates' projects on the course blog. These comments or questions should help your peers further develop their own projects. You should think of your comments as a way to get your peers to think more deeply about their projects, what types of connections have you thought of between your project and theirs? Have you read a book or an article that you think would be good for them to explore? What types of questions do their research questions inspire? What are you most interested in when you read their description? Do not forget to mark on your blog grade sheet when you have submitted both your project description and the comments on two of your peers' project descriptions.

Reminder: If you are interested in doing something besides a traditional research paper for your final project please set up a meeting with me immediately to discuss your options.

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